BARMM leaders buck Duterte’s secession call

John Unson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Leaders of different sectors in the Bangsamoro region yesterday rejected former president Rodrigo Duterte’s call for Mindanao independence, asserting that they will never ruin the gains of their peace process with the national government.

Earlier this week, Duterte announced in Davao City that local groups are to fuse ranks and work out Mindanao’s independence.

Members of the 80-seat parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) declared that they value Malacañang’s separate peace compacts with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

BARMM chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim expressed yesterday his full support for the Marcos administration, as he called on the Filipino people to protect the gains of the peace process.

“As chief minister of the Bangsamoro government, I stand firmly on adhering to the faithful implementation of the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro towards the right to self-determination,” Ebrahim said.

“We, therefore, urge everyone to help protect the gains of the peace processes. Let us continue to support the current administration and allow peace and civility to reign over the affairs of our land,” he said.   

The figurehead of the Regional Development Council 12 and the MNLF also agreed on Thursday to continue fostering peace and sustainable development together in areas where there are MNLF strongholds covered by its Sept. 2, 1996 final truce with Malacañang.

Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño Mendoza and the MNLF’s vice chairman for political affairs, Bangsamoro parliament member Romeo Sema, also agreed to expand cooperation on activities complementing the efforts of the Bangsamoro regional government to address poverty and underdevelopment besetting the Moro community caused by decades of armed conflict.

Mendoza and Sema discussed expansion of her administration and the front’s socio-economic programs in the 63 BARMM barangays in different towns in Cotabato province.

Mendoza said she will also use her influence as governor and RDC 12 chairperson in helping ensure the smooth implementation of the programs of the Ministry of Labor and Employment-BARMM, whose minister Muslimin Sema is chairman of the MNLF central committee.


Filipinos should stay united and turn away from any call or movement that aims to destabilize the Philippine government, presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said yesterday.

In a message, Galvez said that with unity, there will be peace, development and prosperity.

“But when we, as a people, are divided, there is instability, underdevelopment and disorder,” Galvez said.

He made the statement amid Duterte’s proposal to secede from the country. The proposed separation of Mindanao from the country will bring the peace process back to square one, he added.

Galvez said the call for separation is against the Constitution.

“For one, this call for separation is anathema to the letter and spirit of the Philippine Constitution, which is the bulwark of our nation’s identity as a people,” he said.

Galvez said the separation overtures threaten the benefits being enjoyed by peace stakeholders at present.

He also called on the Filipino people to continue supporting the Marcos administration’s peace, reconciliation and unity agenda.

‘Reach out to Duterte’

Amid the exchange of unpleasant words, former senator Gregorio Honasan appealed to President Marcos to extend his hand of unity to former president Duterte.

Honasan called on the President to invite Duterte, former presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Joseph Estrada for an executive meeting to address pressing issues in the country.

“Four great leaders in one room, our most senior statesman, away from the prying eyes of the media, a personal meeting among four concerned Filipinos, all wanting nothing but what is best for the country,” Honasan said in a video posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Honasan pointed out that given their esteemed status as senior statesmen, the former presidents possess the capability to collectively determine the necessary steps to effectively confront these issues.

Moot petition

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed the petition that challenged the legality of the ban imposed on online news site Rappler from covering presidential events during the time of Duterte, saying it was already moot since the former president has stepped down from office.

In a 32-page ruling promulgated on June 27, 2023 but made public only on Feb. 1, the SC said the case was mooted due to the expiration of Duterte’s term considering that, in its petition, Rappler asserted the ban was the result of Duterte’s verbal directives.

Rappler had cited a 2018 interview of Duterte where the former president said he was “invoking an executive action” to impose the ban against the online news site from entering Malacañang or covering presidential events.

“In this case, there would indeed no longer be any practical value in a judgment from the Court. Not only is president Duterte, whose acts were assailed as violative of constitutional rights, already out of office, but further, and importantly, it does not appear that Rappler remains without access to presidential events under President Marcos,” the SC decision read.

The decision was written by Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh and was concurred with by the rest of the magistrates, except for Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen and Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier.

Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo was on official leave so he was unable to cast his vote. — Jose Rodel Clapano, Daphne Galvez, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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